Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In our modern world, you can't go for a day without hearing about the latest and greatest in newfangled weight loss technology. Every day, some schmuck announces the perfect product, device, or diet that we chubs can use to magically shake off the pounds. I'm here today to happily tell you that I've become a schmuck.

That's right, people. I have the answer -- a sure-fire, recently proven way to lose weight. It's not some magical pill. It's not a complicated ab cruncher. It's not a miracle diet. It worked for me last Tuesday, it'll work for you today. The answer to instant weight loss is simple: merely have a dentist pluck those unwanted ounces from your mouth, one tooth at a time. You can thank me later.

I knew there was a problem two weeks ago. I was gnawing on a baguette when something suddenly just didn't feel right. I spent a couple days in denial but had to face the ugly truth -- one of my molars had become loose. It took approximately .2 seconds before panic set in.

Ever heard of trypanophobia? It's the fear of needles, and I'm a card-carrying member. As such, there's not a whole lot that anyone can do to make me voluntarily visit the dentist. As a result, I'm fully aware that my mouth is quite likely a hygienic nightmare of embarassing proportion. Apart from a horrifying wisdom tooth extraction a decade ago, the last time I went for a routine dental appointment was (gulp) the 80's. Ooh, fancy a kiss, ladies?

I know, I know. I should be ashamed. But for a dental scaredy-cat like me, my teeth have held up okay. I brush, I gargle, I, umm, own floss (hey, it's half the battle, right?) Yet despite my horrible track record, I've never had so much as a cavity.

Still, even wussy me couldn't rationalize any advantages to running amok with wobbly teeth, so I braced myself for a diagnosis of terminal mouth rot and made an appointment. As soon as I saw the x-ray pop up on the computer screen, I knew I was in for it. There was my tooth. Well, some of it. And there was the rest of the tooth, under the gum, under the giant newly-formed crevasse. It was NOT a good day.

There's one thing I need to explain. It turns out that the bullies in junior high were right -- I really AM a freak of nature. I was born missing somewhere around 7 permanent teeth. Weirder yet, when you don't have anything to push them out, you don't lose your baby teeth -- ergo, I've still got a few of those resilient suckers hanging out. Nothing to worry about, I vaguely recall a dentist telling me as a kid, but I would likely have problems with them breaking "when I got older." I was just assuming "older" meant a heck of a lot older than 37. No dice.

When my grandfather would have a toothache, he would go out to the garage, grab a pair of pliers, and rip the offending tooth clean out of his head. I know, I know. Archaic, medieval, and bone-chilling, right? Well, thanks to the miracles of modern science, technology, and dentistry, I was now able to sit in an office and have a trained professional examine my teeth, analyze my problem, and then grab a pair of pliers and rip the offending tooth clean out of my head.

The whole thing was a ghoulish nightmare best forgotten. That said, it was a PAINLESS ghoulish nightmare, and I tip my hat and give a free plug to Dr. Richard Herzfeldt for staying true to his advertised "soft touch dentistry." It wasn't much fun for me, but I'm sure dealing with a hyperventilating, babbling ninny wasn't his idea of a picnic either.

Little did I realize that the true terror of having a tooth pulled comes AFTER the procedure, when suddenly every man, woman, and child feels the need to warn you of the horror of DRY SOCKET. "Dry socket" is the polite way of saying "exposed bone," which I'm told rivals childbirth in the pain dept. It can occur when you do anything that might impact the healing process of your gums. That's why, after the tooth was pulled, Doc rattled off a list that pretty much made him a no-fun-nik:

No tobacco. No alcohol. Don't use a straw. Don't drink carbonated anything. Don't eat anything that may possibly have a texture or the potential to taste like anything other than sterile gauze. Don't bend over. Don't lift anything heavy. Don't do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around. Don't have any fun whatsoever. By the time the list was over, I believe my two remaining options for the holiday weekend were: (a) sit, and (b) pray I didn't get dry socket.

And I made it. No dry socket, and my mouth is kinda back to normal, albeit with one much-missed molar. A few more and I'll officially be the creepy, tooth-less, kid-scaring, cat-owning hermit I've aspired to become all my life. The real bummer is that, while he was probing around, Doc found another baby tooth that's a touch loose, so I probably get to endure it all over again soon. But before that, I'll be making an appointment for a proper cleaning. I'm losing my baby teeth, I'm becoming a big boy, and it's time to lose my fear of dentistry.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to call my mom. Cross-referencing inflation trends with the current status of the overseas dollar, by my calculations the Tooth Fairy owes me a couple grand.

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